O'Shea: Win is imperative
John O'Shea insists victory over Slovakia on Friday night is the only option if Ireland's Euro 2012 fate is to remain in their own hands.
Giovanni Trapattoni's men face the Slovakians in Dublin and then four days later, Russia in Moscow in a potentially decisive Group B double-header. The three sides are locked in a three-way tie at the head of the race for qualification on 13 points, and a win at the Aviva Stadium would send the Ireland to the Luzhniki Stadium with their sights fixed firmly on the big prize.
Asked if the Slovakia game is a must-win affair, O'Shea said: "Without a doubt. It has to be, especially if you are talking about wanting to finish top of the group. It's got to be a home win."
He added: "But it's easier said than done because you know the qualities of the teams. There have been a couple of strange results here and there. You might be saved, but you would rather keep your destiny in your own hands."
The stakes could hardly be higher as Ireland attempt to qualify for their first major finals since the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea, but Sunderland defender O'Shea is relishing the challenge of a huge week.
He said: "That's always the case when you come into a group qualification. You know there are going to be certain times when it's coming down to really big, important games, and that will be the case with this weekend.
"Friday-Tuesday - there's not much in between and if you get a positive result on Friday, you can't wait for that game on Tuesday."
O'Shea is yet to experience the finals of a major tournament after only just missing out on a trip to the World Cup in South Africa last summer courtesy of an infamous play-off defeat by France.
The gap in his curriculum vitae, which includes a glittering array of honours won with former club Manchester United, is one he is determined to erase.
He said: "Some of the lads obviously have been to the World Cup, but I haven't made it to a major tournament yet, so it would be a major part of my career. It would be a major achievement."